143 A Randomized Existence

“One of the pleasures of walking in New York is that it randomizes the grid... and that feeling of randomizing your own existence is, I think, incredibly rich and welcome.” -Adam Gopnik, as quoted by New York Times
It's finally recess week! I decided to read my old blog posts on a whim and realized I haven't actually written anything since law school started. I had toyed with the separate ideas of making a picture-dump post and making a Things to be Grateful For list, but the realization that 6 whole surreal weeks of being a law student have whizzed by made me think: why not combine the two?

Then comes along the brilliant New York Times article linked in the blockquote above, which couldn't have come at a more perfect time, because the only two exciting things I planned for myself this recess week were to get myself out of the house, alone, armed with a camera, to be a tourist in my own country for a day (or two). It's been a tiring, but super liberating and super memorable experience.

Walking alone is such a strange activity.
You're alone, so there's no need to make idle conversation, or worry that you're boring/ tiring your companion with your presence/ needs/ distractions/ thoughts. You're alone, so you can turn into any back lane that catches your eye, or take a detour down a road parallel to the one more often travelled.

Like this one, found next to a backpacker hotel.
That said, when we're alone in crowded places (and it's Singapore. Every place is crowded), we tend to resort to the pretence that we're not alone. It's part of the "glorification of busy": we chunk away at our smartphones, as if to say, "I'm not really alone. There's someone else on the line!"

Funny: this means there is someone else on another part of the island (or the world) doing the exact same thing.
But you're also walking. So here's where the fun part comes in, because when you walk alone, you can walk at any pace you please with any amount of purpose you deem fit (i.e. none at all is actually an option). So I truly played the tourist: I slung my camera around my neck, walked at a terribly slow pace, wandered all around Raffles Hotel like nobody's business, and even stopped a couple of fellow idling tourists to ask for a photo. 

And hey, you can do cheesy touristy things like ask for better shots or pose without looking awkward (which I failed at. Hence the lack of proof), just because!

Of course, the tourist impression had to fall away when I presented my I/C for the free entry to Asian Civilization Museum's exhibition, but that's beside the point. 

Being alone shouldn't be as demonized as it can be sometimes. 

Being alone is one of the things I'm grateful for. I chose the title "A Randomized Existence" in reference to the NYT quote at the beginning, but also because of a more personal realization I had recently: that my life has been a train on the same, straight railway line. Despite certain rest stops which others may not have had (e.g. studying overseas for a bit when I was thirteen), I always got back on. I've always joined the same clubs, hung out in the same social circles, had the same hobbies (pretty much).

If "it is our choices which define us, (Harry,) more than our abilities", then I'm not a terribly exciting person, and I doubt I ever will be. But these little jaunts on my own have given me a glimpse into what happens when you shake up your Rubik's Cube existence and go for a randomized one- where my spur-of-the-moment decisions can take me, literally, anywhere.
 It's a strange thing to learn in law school, where you learn to paragraph with numbers,

  1. Like so. To create neat, ordered lists of an argument that flows like a gun held steady hitting the bullet's eye bam, bam, bam.
  2. Where you realize that the lawyer's uniform ("court attire") of a white button up and black pencil skirt is actually a pretty accurate representation of what counts as style (in both literary and sartorial senses): clean lines, no fluff. 
  3. Where you're kinda still on the same train, on the same railway line. Only perhaps bumped up a carriage, because the problems you're dealing with are suddenly a lot harder and bigger than those in JC, and definitely those in secondary school.

That spontaneous feeling of being caught off guard and planning around the surprises is still something I have to grapple with. My personality is such that I feel the need to micro-manage and plan my life down to the minutest details. Even my alone, zen time needs to be scheduled- and rightly so, I suppose, for the purposes of time management- but still, walking alone shows me how expansive time is (say "expensive", with a Singlish accent- I kid).
I'm not saying that I'm going to incorporate this spontaneity into my everyday life or personality- I'm past the stage of believing that I can really change myself inside out at the flip of a hat. But it really amazed me today how time can pass in dollops and yet also ooze (what a nice word) by. Five minutes of prayerful solitude can be as good as five hours of meditation if you allow that silence to take over your soul and really fill you up. And sometimes, discovering hidden lanes and more unexpected things can fill you with more adrenaline than ticking off a long To-Do list in record timing.
Like this lane of pubs along Clarke Quay- why so beautiful (in daylight)?
I do realize, by the way, how very full of contradictions this post is, and how much ludicity it lacks. But despite my tired feet and the way my eyes probably can't stay open for much longer, I have to say- it's a wonderful world. And it's a wonderful experience to breathe in this wonder alone sometimes.

(All pictures by me! Do not take without credit! As if you even would, anyway.)

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